Common Sense About Preparing for an EMP Attack

June 4, 2017

in Negative Events

Much is not known about the actual damage levels inflicted by an EMP attack. For this reason, some discount the need to prepare for one. It is difficult to apply common sense to threat analysis in this case because there are so many unknowns. Here are some issues helpful in framing this:

  • There are two different threat profiles to consider. The most dangerous and least likely is a High Altitude EMP (HEMP) event where a single nuclear warhead is detonated at high altitude with no intent to cause kinetic damage, but instead designed to maximize damage to electrical and electronic infrastructure. Much of the data accumulated by military research in this area remains classified. We don’t know exactly how much damage can be done, but we can frame the range with some limits. At the low end, an HEMP can destroy some (but not all?) electronic equipment and is likely to take out most of our utility power grid. At the high end, it can destroy all electronic equipment and take out the entire utility power grid. Only a small handful of nations can produce nuclear warheads, but if one of those is obtained by an actor willing to use it, getting it into position over the center of a target nation is possible.
  • The second threat profile is less dangerous but far more likely. This is the threat from a Coronal Mass Ejections (CME) and/or solar flare. These events occur constantly but rarely do they come directly at Earth. It’s a given that one will eventually, but we don’t know when that will happen. When it does, there is a range of damage that can result depending on how strong the event is and how direct a hit we take. This kind of event is not likely to damage most elecronic equipment but it can create strong surges that destroy transformers and take down the entire utility power grid.
  • The biggest problem with any of these scenarios is restoring the utility power grid. This is because so many other parts of our infrastructure rely on it. In an extreme HEMP event with most electronic equipment destroyed in addition to the failure of the power grid, the recovery might take decades. In a less severe event, recovery is still more likely to take years than months.
  • Preparing for an extreme EMP event basically means preparing for the complete collapse of all of the infrastructure of our civilization. This means it dovetails well with most if not all other preparation plans.

Learning About EMP
Scenario: ElectroMagnetic Pulse (EMP) and Solar Flares
EMP Disaster Timeline
The Difference Between a Solar Flare and an EMP
CP: Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP)
Faraday Protection
Making a Faraday Blanket
Microwave Ovens Are NOT Good Faraday Cages

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